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Call to evidence - This meat to the Campaign is poison to the bookies

Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling welcomes the decision by DCMS to finally announce a 'Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures'.


The FOBT review has finally arrived with the DCMS statement announcing a "Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures - Call to Evidence". The Government is reviewing the measures because they know they are not working. The call to evidence is not a call to libertarian excuses, PR guff or the promulgation of misleading data.

The Campaign has always been evidence based, as can be seen from the evidence pages at Stop the FOBTs and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling and our most recent Central Lobby article exposed the Myth-makers. The paragraphs in the piece relating to FOBTs and deprivation really show the contrast between the Campaign and the bookies.  

Bookies accused of targeting deprived areas with addictive high stake casino machines” read the Scottish Sunday Mail over the weekend, accompanied by the ABB line “there’s no evidence”.

The latest evidence which, according to the ABB is not evidence, is research carried out by Landman Economics using mapping of betting shops completed by Geofutures set against Scotland’s Index of Multiple Deprivation. Low and behold, it showed a near three-fold density (2.83) of betting shops per head of population in the most deprived parts of Scotland compared to the least. When applying campaign estimates of FOBT losses, the most deprived areas were 2.9 times more profitable for the bookmakers than the least deprived.

Doesn’t that ring a bell? The Guardian reported back in 2014, “England’s poorest bet £13 billion on gambling machines”, which showed just over double the number of betting shops, and therefore FOBTs, located in the most deprived areas of England and Wales. That apparently wasn’t evidence either and former ABB Chairman Neil Goulden said, “we do not target the poor”.

Poor Paddy Power couldn’t muster a “no evidence” challenge when the location of their shops came under the spotlight. Curiously however, the ABB then decided to give a “no comment” instead of a “no evidence” when it was revealed that 61% of their newly opened shops were in areas with higher than average numbers of non-UK born residents.

Only last week Lord Ashton of Hyde was claiming on behalf of the Government in the House of Lords that there was no evidence of causation between FOBTs and violence. In his previous role as a Lloyds underwriter though, the Lord would know that correlated data can provide adequate insight for risk assessment.

For example, before there was scientific understanding of development of cognitive risk/reward brain functionality continuing until around age 25, motor insurers managed to figure out that younger drivers were higher risk drivers based on correlation rather than causation.

FOBTs are more associated with disordered gambling than any other gambling activity. Around 20% of gambling machines in bookmakers per year are subject to criminal damage, compared to virtually zero gaming machines being damaged in other premises. Your Lordship, what theory would you care to advance to explain the attacks on betting shop staff by FOBT losers?

The leak of the review to the Sunday Times, provided the Financial Times with the insight to go with this story.

DCMS has chosen a very sensible approach by not putting forward a recommendation and not relying on advice from the Gambling Commission or associated "responsible" bodies. This structure allows DCMS to conclude that the best option is a £2 maximum stake, but limits the ability of the bookies to prevail in a threatened judicial review.

The Commission claims that operators are not doing enough regarding their TV advertising but the Commission itself never applies fines or revokes licenses for repeated infractions. The unfit for purpose Commission has helped the bookies have it so good for so long.

Under this new government and DCMS, the clock is ticking. The bookies' allergy towards facts will be treated by the application of evidence which is meat to the truth and poison to their allergy.

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